"Alfred. Alfred. Alfred!"
Arthur Kirkland slammed his hands on the table in exasperation - with as much as discretion as possible, or course. Dinner with his "business" partner was turning out to be more troublesome than he had anticipated. All Arthur wanted was to hash out the beginnings of a report due in to the Forces, possibly some alcohol, good food. It wasn't much to ask. Arthur had no problem with Alfred's company – in fact he rather enjoyed it – the problem lay in Alfred's dinner manners.
They weren't in a particularly posh restaurant, but for Arthur manners were paramount.
Staring at him in absolute horror, Arthur watched the bespectacled man rip chicken from the bone with his teeth – "More of it is going on the table than in his mouth…" Arthur thought - , use his fingers to pick up greasy meat and worst of all, chew with his mouth open. A cardinal sin in Arthur's books.
"Alfred! For Gods sake!" He massaged his temples.
"Mhmm?" Alfred didn't even look up.
"Listen. Look at me!"
That got Alfred's attention. Pushing the still near-full plate in front of him, he dabbed his mouth with a napkin.
"Look, I'm sorry I sound such a pain, but –" Arthur considered this and with a puff and a sigh he crossed his eyes and pointed at Alfred, his tone of voice becoming slightly maddened. "Actually, Alfred, you know what, I'm not sorry! Francis and I sorted out our side of the agreement and report at least two weeks ago! The others are getting impatient, it's long overdue! I won't wait an evening longer! You know, it's times like these –"
Alfred raised his hand. "Kirkland, cool your heels."
Arthur was startled for a moment. Alfred had never addressed him by his surname before. Taking a slug of Coke, Alfred continued. "We have two, no – three, no wait, four weeks…" he counted on his fingers. "Well, a long time anyway to get this done. I should've known you had another motive. We couldn't just go out for a meal together, oh no…" Alfred trailed off, removing and cleaning his glasses.
Arthur was about to protest, but he suddenly felt bad. The American was right, on both accounts. It was a trait he hated about himself – a desire to keep everything ahead and in check, to be on top of all affairs and ultimately put work ahead of those that he loved. He remembered something that Alfred has said to him not so long ago: "Arthur, your prioritisation sucks!" with a slap on the back for good measure.
He must've looked guilty.
"Aishh, I'm sorry. I just… I miss spending time with you. You know?"
Arthur began to feel embarrassed. "No, it's me. Let's… let's just enjoy our food tonight. Forget about the report." He picked up a knife and attempted to cut through a difficult slice of steak. Alfred smiled and stuffed a handful of fries into his mouth.
Yes… Arthur pondered. I may take pleasure in his company, but his table manners… I'll leave that for now…
Arthur smiled back through gritted teeth and stared at the mess inside Alfred's mouth.
A non-awkward silence followed before Alfred pursued conversation. "So, I was thinking of bowling this week, and –"
"Oh, come here a sec." Arthur noticed a spot of sauce on the side of Alfred's mouth. He moved his own face closer to examine the stray liquid, reaching for a napkin. Pursing his lips in concentration was another one of Arthur's traits.
He leaned over a little. "Just here –"
Before Arthur knew what was happening, Alfred leaned forward first and planted a small kiss on Arthur's mouth, completely misinterpreting the situation.
Arthur held the kiss for a second before pulling away in shock. "What are you doing?" Arthur hissed, his face flushing a dangerous shade of red.
Genuinely confused, Alfred stuttered. "But… but… isn't that what you were suggesting?"
"That's incredulous, you fool!" Arthur near screamed, trying not to make a scene.
"I'm sorry!" Alfred raised his hands in mock surrender and began shaking with giggles at his flustered friend.
"Don't. Laugh." He stammered, mopping his brow. The last thing he'd want is for Alfred to discover that he secretly liked it.
With a chuckle, Alfred wiped his mouth with an abandoned napkin – if only he knew that was my intention in the first place! Arthur shook his head.
Alfred picked up his glass. "So uptight. Don't deny you enjoyed it." He gave his companion a sly wink.
Arthur couldn't help but smile. "Moving on!" he exclaimed, dusting his lap and his hands.
Slowly, he began to eat his meal again.
Somehow, he knew that the food wouldn't taste quite as good as Alfred's lips.